Altan Insights x The Realest
The Art of Collecting Music's Biggest Moments
This is the fifth edition of a multi-part blog series produced in partnership with The Realest on the key events and factors shaping the modern music memorabilia market. The Realest is the first dedicated authentication standard and marketplace for music memorabilia.
Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" video, released in 1984, is a quintessential rock 'n' roll masterpiece.
Produced at a rising moment within the MTV era, memorabilia related to the production and performance of the "Hot for Teacher" video has long piqued the interest of collectors. In 2020, the scaled-down version of Eddie Van Halen’s red, black, and white guitar used by Bryan Hitchcock sold for $50,000 at Juliens. The pint-sized strings were shredded by the child actor in his role as a young Van Halen in the video. Consider that Eddie Van Halen never played or even touched that non-playable guitar and it still sold for $50,000 - that’s the power of the MTV generation.
If that sale left anyone wondering what the full-sized Van Halen-used guitar would sell for, Sotheby’s provided an answer in April 2023. The auction house presented the custom made guitar with an estimate of $2 million - $3 million with the lot officially selling for $3.9 million.
The Live Aid concert, organized by Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof and Utravox vocalist Midge Ure in 1985, was a historic global music event aimed at raising funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. The televised tribute featured a legendary lineup of artists like Queen, U2, and David Bowie while attracting an audience of more than 1.5 billion viewers.
In turn, Live Aid memorabilia, including original tickets, posters, and even stage-used instruments, have become valuable collector's items. Signed programs command hundreds of dollars at auction while prices for slabbed ticket stubs have neared five-figures in recent years. As is often the case with music memorabilia though, it's the instruments and stage-worn clothes that, if made public, command the top prices. Christie’s sold the guitar used by Pete Townshend of The Who for nearly $43,000 in 2011 and in 2021, the grail of the show finally emerged.
Played by the legend himself, Elton John's Steinway Model D Grand Piano, which carried nearly 20 years of use, including an appearance at Live Aid, sold at Heritage Auctions for $915,000. In more recent news, earlier this summer, Sotheby’s sold a plethora of stage-worn Freddie Mercury attire including a sleeveless top worn by Queen’s late lead vocalist during Live Aid rehearsals for more than $50,000.
"We Are the World," a song and music video released in 1985, brought together an all-star ensemble of artists to raise funds for African famine relief. The video featured the likes of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, and other decorated stars.
Memorabilia associated with "We Are the World" often includes autographed items such as sheet music, with various copies tallying more than $10,000 at auction. Add provenance to that equation, and the value increases exponentially: Kenny Rogers’ sheet music, signed with personal inscriptions to him from the other artists, sold for $156,000 at Julien’s in 2022. Other rare grails that have realized top dollar at auction include trophies such as the "We Are The World" MTV Moonman Video Music award which hammered for $72,000, or 9x its pre-auction estimate at Juliens in 2009.
As we've explored the iconic moments that shaped music history, from Woodstock to "We Are the World," we've witnessed how these events have become a gateway to the world of music collectibles.
In recent years, the music memorabilia market has seen continued appreciation in the value of specific items associated with noteworthy events and influential videos. In a trend replicated across markets like game-worn sports memorabilia, collectors have demonstrated an ongoing willingness to invest substantial sums in owning a piece of history, a tangible connection to the music, videos, and moments that once defined an industry and today, define a market.
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